Of all the weird twists in the 40-year drama of building the Washington Monument, perhaps the oddest was in 1855, when a band of rebels staged a coup and seized the project, largely because the board overseeing the construction had accepted a commemorative stone from Pope Pius IX. The Know-Nothing Party faction didn’t give back the monument until 1858.
Two engaging thrillers set on opposite sides of the pond and an impassioned look at the benefits of close reading make for great listening this month.
In John Irving’s 14th novel, aging Mexican-American novelist Juan Diego Guerrero travels from his home in Iowa to the Philippines. He plans to fulfill a decades-old promise he made to a Vietnam draft dodger to honor a father killed during World War II, and takes a former writing student as his tour guide. En route to Manila, he is overtaken and seduced by a ghostly mother-daughter duo: fans of Juan Diego’s novels, who will reappear in unexpected, -sexually-charged moments throughout his journey. Going on and off his blood pressure medications, he travels in an almost hallucinatory state. He dreams.
Forget Ben, Jennifer and the nanny. Don’t give a second thought to Gwen and Gavin. Contemporary Splitsville sagas are dullsville compared to the craziness of Golden Age Hollywood stars Frank Sinatra and Ava Gardner. Their four decades-plus romance, detailed in John Brady’s juicy and judiciously reported Frank & Ava: In Love and War, was the stuff of both dreams and nightmares and makes for a doozy of a read.
John Coy’s many books about sports are especially popular with young readers, and here he brings his knowledge of the history of basketball to tell a timely and inspiring story about John McLendon (1915-1999), the first black coach in the American Basketball Association.
Now that anyone with a Facebook page and an opinion can be a political pundit, it’s hard to believe there was a time—and not that long ago—when a newspaper columnist could wield real political power. Mary McGrory did for nearly half a century.
This month's best new mysteries feature Bangkok cops, Yorkshire inspectors, a wild west sherrif and a motley crew of Las Vegas criminals.
It’s sometimes amazing to realize how an obsession for sports can take over a life. In John L. Parker Jr.’s amiable new work, a prequel to his 1978 bestseller Once a Runner, Quenton Cassidy, teenage native of Citrus City, Florida, is so wrapped up in his athletic pursuits that the great upheavals of his era—the Cuban missile crisis, the assassination of JFK, civil rights and the arrival of the Beatles for goodness’ sake!—stick in his mind the way anything sticks to Teflon.
The final chapter in Lev Grossman's Magicians Trilogy, a suspenseful historic account of a perilous voyage and a National Book Award finalist make for great reading this month.
In Wide-Open World: How Volunteering Around the Globe Changed one Family’s Life Forever, John Marshall brings the reader along on his family's six-month volunteering vacation. With two teenage kids who struggled to be connected to the world beyond their electronic devices, a 20-year marriage in urgent need of a rebirth, and a desire to be of service, the Marshalls set off to work in some of the most remote places on earth.